Vivid Sydney 2015: Universal Everything lighting the sails with a Living Mural

By on June 7, 2015

“Living Mural” is the title given to the commissioned animation sequence lighting up the sails of the Sydney Opera House, as part of the seventh annual Vivid Sydney, the worldai??i??s largest festival of light, music and ideas. But hurry, it all ends tomorrow (May 22-June 8).


The light show takes place from 6:00 p.m. to midnight local time and is free, but in case you can’t make it to Sydney in time to catch the last rays of light, we’ve got this wonderful 15-minute long for you to check out.


The multi-disciplinary media art and design studio Universal Everything collaborated with over twenty different animation studios to create the “lighting of the sail” on one of the most iconic buildings in the world, combining a passion for architecture, graphics, moving image and sound. It took four months to produce and involved animation studios from the USA to New Zealand, Russia to Argentina.


The animators brought their own unique aesthetic to the project, informed by the creativity abounding in popular culture, animation and graphic design ai??i?? there are examples manga, scientific simulations, psychedelia and modernist graphics. graceful divers illustrated by Matt Scharenboich fade into Vascolo’s colorfully abstracted interpretation of wind, which then transitions into a playful swarming of shapes animated by Universal Everything.


Universal Everything gave the image-makers a keyword as a prompt (e.g. ricochet, swarm, grow, bounce, climb, burst) and tasked them with creating 30-second long cell animations, using a black background as the canvas. The idea was to create a living mural ai??i?? drawing on inspirations ranging from Roman engravings to modern street art ai??i?? and the choice to work with hand-drawn animations helped differentiate from some of the super high-tech projections that have graced the famous sails in the past.

Some of the influence of early hand-drawn animation pioneers like Walt Disney and Norman McLaren can been seen in the mural’s moving images, which are additionally enhanced by the incredible sound design, which was composed by Simon Pyke/Freefarm.


Founded 11 years ago by creative director Matt Pyke in Sheffield, England, the bold color-friendly group have collaborated with bands — a British animation studio best known for its work on Radiohead’s stunning Polyfauna app ai??i?? as well as brands (MTV), record labels (Warp), and mammoth events alike such as the London 2012 Olympics and the largest screen unveiled yet at the heart of New York’s Times Square. The Animation Director was Chris Perry.

Find out more about Universal Everything.

Go here for a list of the animation sequences and their titles, their creators and lots of links. You can buy the music here.

Matt Pyke of Universal Everything

About Bryan

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide and a dozen other websites and zines, most of them long gone. He’s also worked for over twenty years at reissue record labels, and penned scads of liner notes -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He is now somewhat reclusive and bides his time quietly in his dusty Miracle Mile hermitage in Los Angeles, CA.